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Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

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Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's “Nuclear Renaissance.”
Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex's “Nuclear Renaissance.”

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on Sep 17, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Fle sl
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is based on the th report in the International Forum onGlobalization’s series on alse solutions to the global climate and energy crises. Both the June 2011 report and this expanded book-length investiga-tion ocus on the appalling attempt to revive and celebrate nuclear power asa grand “green,” climate-riendly energy system that can successully replaceossil uels and continue to sustain our industrial society at its present level.Author Gar Smith systematically reutes all the nuclear industry arguments,including one o its most critical assumptions—that the deadly radiationrom nuclear wastes can be successully sequestered or the 250,000 years it will remain dangerous to all lie, an assertion bordering on insane.Nuclear technology was originally devised as a tool to abricate weaponso mass destruction. Te goal was to create a nuclear arsenal that coulddeliver an unprecedented level o death and devastation (with accompanyingpollution to air, water, and biological systems), well beyond anything thathad ever beore been achieved. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, atomic powerproved it could excel at destroying buildings and lives. But ater World WarII, nuclear’s corporate advocates tried to rebrand it as a benign, ecient,sustainable source o energy that would be “too cheap to meter.” oday, theatom’s corporate boosters have begun to tout nuclear reactors as the best“green” solution to the world’s energy and climate crisis.In the pages that ollow, Gar Smith demolishes these claims. I thenuclear dragon can be slain with the weapons o logic and inormation,this document should prove atal. Nuclear’s inherent problems include itsextravagant and noncompetitive costs, the absurdly long time spans requiredto deploy it, and the technology’s little-noted but very important net energy deciencies. On this latter point, all ull-lie-cycle studies—measuring totalenergy expended on everything rom mining, processing, and shippinguranium to plant construction, operation, and ultimate decommission-ing—conclude that nuclear energy requires about as much energy 
it may ultimately provide. Tere are no bargains here. Sustainablealternatives, including wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal, have ar better
net energy 
nuclear roulette
But that’s the least o it. Te overriding problem with nuclear energy, which dwars all others, is that nuclear production demands that society deal with all the spectacularly dangerous emanations and waste products intrinsicto that production. Te risks lie ar beyond the horizon o our imaginations.Nuclear accidents can make large regions uninhabitable. Tey can bankruptnations. Even a nuclear reactor’s routine, day-by-day leaks pose generationalhazards that should make us shudder. o run the industry saely would meanisolating its waste products or at least tens o thousands o years—not tomention controlling the risks o weapons prolieration. Are we somehow exempt rom history? Few civilizations last more than a couple o hundred years. Te Romans lasted about 700 years and did very well or a while. Butthey made some mistaken assumptions about their own permanence that are very similar to those we are making now. Te situation would be comical i it weren’t so deadly. What hubris. What madness!How exactly will the nuclear industrys vast tonnage o radioactive wastebe saely isolated rom uture generations? What will shield our grandchil-dren—and theirs? Tis report goes to great lengths to demonstrate that nosuccessul containment system has yet been invented to package this stu successully beyond a very short period. Everywhere, eorts to store these wastes underground have been resisted vigorously by local communities—and with good reason. Te problem o long-term storage lasting eons begins to suggest that we contemplate some kind o permanent signage we might deploy aroundthese danger zones. But what language should we use? Will English still bespoken ater a quarter million years, in say, the year 25,2012 AD? And eventhen, the radioactive danger will still be present. Our legacy o poisonedearth will be, eectively, eternal. Te only thing more bizarre than the demand that we accept these circum-stances is that the governments o numerous highly developed, well-educatedcountries, including our own, have agreed to let this technology operate. Tey expect the public to agree to these grim prospects. Tey tell us we must let thistechnology prolierate; we must blind ourselves to its risks; we must continueto contribute our tax dollars to subsidize the unknowable costs o maintainingthe industry and cleaning up the devastation it leaves behind. But it’s not only governments, desperate or energy, that accept these conditions. Much o thepublic, as well, remains entranced by the energy industry’s reassuring publicrelations and advertising mantras. We need to shake o this state o denial. Tesituation is so grave that we should more properly be camped out night and day in ront o legislative and regulatory bodies demanding the permanent end to any and every expression o this continued nuclear menace, be it civilian or military.

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